History of the Virginia Environmental Endowment

Judge Merhige

Judge Robert R. Merhige Jr.

The Virginia Environmental Endowment (VEE), a nonprofit, independent grant-making foundation, came about in a unique way: by court order.  In February 1977, the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia fined Allied Chemical Corporation $13.2 million for polluting the James River with the insecticide Kepone.  With the approval of Judge Robert R. Merhige Jr., a portion of this fine − $8 million − was paid by Allied to fund the creation of the Virginia Environmental Endowment for the purpose of improving the quality of Virginia’s environment.

Between 1981 and 1991 VEE received another $1.4 million in court settlements paid by the FMC Corporation, Bethlehem Steel Corporation, Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel Corporation, IR International, Inc., and Hauni Richmond, Inc. The FMC funds expanded the Endowment’s work in Virginia and beyond into the Kanawha River and Ohio River Valleys.

The Endowment has worked collaboratively for more than three decades as a leader and convener, improving environmental quality, advancing environmental literacy, and partnering to establish land trusts, conservation networks, and a statewide mediation center.

On May 31, 2013 VEE’s first Executive Director, Gerald “Jerry” McCarthy, retired after 36 years of exceptional service.  McCarthy joined VEE when it was created in 1977 and his legacy includes a long list of outstanding environmental grant-making and accomplishments.  Upon his retirement, VEE Board Chairman Dr. Dixon Butler stated, “Jerry has been an effective and wise executive director for VEE.  He has kept the Endowment’s activities to improve the environment of the highest quality through decades of change in the needs and opportunities for our grant-making.”

The Board of Directors named Joseph H. Maroon to succeed Jerry as Executive Director.  Joe has over 30 years of environmental leadership experience.  He is a former Director of the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, Executive Director of the Virginia Office of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, and Principal/Owner of Maroon Consulting.  He also is an adjunct faculty member at both the University of Virginia and Virginia Tech.  He began his tenure in May of 2013.